India top military officer will not handle operations, just jointness and procurement

File Photo: India’s prime minister Narendra Modi addressing the DefExpo 2018 in Chennai.


  • CDS to handle, prioritise procurement of three services, but capital acquisition will be governed by prevelant rules
  • Post to go to a four-star officer, with permanent position on par with forces chiefs
  • Will be the secretary of the newly created department of military affairs
  • To be the principal military adviser to the defence minister

New Delhi: Just short of naming a four-star officer in the rank of a General or its equivalent as India’s first Chief of Defence Staff, the Narendra Modi government today approved the proposal for the creation of the post that will be the single point military advisor to the defence minister on military affairs.

But there are strong indications that the present Chief of Army Staff General Bipin Rawat could be elevated as the first CDS of the country.

The Cabinet Committee on Security, in its meeting chaired by the prime minister, also approved the creation of a new Department of Military Affairs in the Ministry of Defence to be headed by the Chief of Defence Staff as the department’s secretary, and receiving the salary and perquisites equivalent to an armed force chief.

The creation of the post of the CDS is no doubt a landmark reform in the higher defence management and comes within four months of Modi announcing the intent to get the post created when he addressed the nation on Aug. 15 to mark the independence day this year.

“India should not have a fragmented approach. Our entire military power will have to work in unison and move forward,” Modi had said then.

“All the three (Services) should move simultaneously at the same pace. There should be good coordination and it should be relevant to the hope and aspirations of our people. It should be in line with the changing war and security environment with the world.

“After formation of this post (CDS), all the three forces will get effective leadership at the top level.”

The CDS, as the head of the Department of Military Affairs, will deal with these following areas:

  • The armed forces of the Union, namely, the army, the navy and the air force.
  • The Integrated Headquarters of the Ministry of Defence comprising the Army Headquarters, Naval Headquarters, Air Headquarters and Defence Staff Headquarters.
  • The Territorial Army.
  • Works relating to the army, the navy and the air force.
  • Procurement exclusive to the Services, except capital acquisitions, as per prevalent rules and procedures.

Apart from the above, the mandate of the Department of Military Affairs will include the following areas:

  • Promoting jointness in procurement, training and staffing for the Services through joint planning and integration of their requirements.
  • Facilitation of restructuring of Military Commands for optimal utilisation of resources by bringing about jointness in operations, including through establishment of joint/theatre commands.
  • Promoting use of indigenous equipment by the Services.

The CDS will also be the Permanent Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, which means the officer will be the first among equals. He will act as the Principal Military Adviser to the Minister of Defence on all tri-Services matters.

The three armed forces chiefs will continue to advise the defence minister on matters exclusively concerning their respective Services. The CDS will not exercise any military command, including over the three armed forces chiefs, so as to be able to provide impartial advice to the political leadership.

As the Permanent Chairman of Chiefs of Staff Committee, the CDS will perform the following functions:

  • The CDS will administer tri-services organisations. Tri-service agencies/organisations/commands related to Cyber and Space will be under the command of the CDS.
  • The CDS will be member of Defence Acquisition Council chaired by the defence minister and Defence Planning Committee chaired by the National Security Adviser.
  • Function as the Military Adviser to the Nuclear Command Authority.
  • Bring about jointness in operation, logistics, transport, training, support services, communications, repairs and maintenance, of the three Services, within three years of the first CDS assuming office.
  • Ensure optimal utilisation of infrastructure and rationalise it through jointness among the services.
  • Implement the five-year Defence Capital Acquisition Plan (DCAP), and the two-year roll-on Annual Acquisition Plan (AAP), as a follow up of Integrated Capability Development Plan (ICDP).
  • Assign inter-Services prioritisation to capital acquisition proposals based on the anticipated budget.
  • Bring about reforms in the functioning of three Services aimed at augmenting combat capabilities of the armed forces by reducing wasteful expenditure.

This reform in the higher defence management would enable the armed forces to implement coordinated defence doctrines and procedures, and go a long way in fostering jointmanship among the three Services. The nation would benefit by the coordinated action on greater jointmanship in training, logistics and operations, as well as prioritisation of procurement.

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